Short Story: The Art of War

A short piece of 1st person narrative fiction based on an Operation Flame Strike Campaign.

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An eerie twilight reached out across the spaceport at Tianxian as the yellow G-Type star orbiting Paridiso finally dipped below the horizon. A ripple of lights radiated outwards from the central spaceport complex illuminating the complex with the blue tint of powerful LEDs creating a momentary flare in his head up display before sophisticated algorithms corrected for the change in light. Sun Tze watched and waited. Despite the apparent calm in the Space Port his HUD was alive with data being downlinked from the geostationary orbiting satellites deployed above him. The Pan Oceana’s rapid response strike team has set down their drop ship and were now deploying towards the space port. Sun Tze knew their mission, for it was the same as the orders he had been given. Secure the spaceport and intercept a critical supply of high tech components being shipped down from the orbiting Corregedor ship. The thought of Corregedor made him pause holding his breath for a moment…

His rifle fired with more of a kick that he was accustomed to – but then the realisation set in that it was not the recoil from the rifle but the bullet from the Corregedor sniper in his sights. He felt the rifle slip from his hands as his vision drew in around him… A bright light shone from above. In flicked from eye to eye. A calm feminine voice spoke from a distance.
“Upload successful. Cube restoration complete. Can you here me sir?”
First came confusion and disorientation, as it always did, and then realisation. Sun Tze had died, but in those last minutes of consciousness his neural net had recorded the last of his memories and stored them in the CUBE device implanted in his amygdala. Every experience from his last mission, every action, feeling and emotion, digitised and stored in a crystalline quantum matrix capable of storing immense quantities of data. He looked down at his arm, connected with biometric sensors. The cloned body was identical to his previous body and the body before – he was Sun Tze, at least he thought he was….

He pushed the memory to the back of his mind and exhaled slowly focusing his chi. Concerned at his lapse in concentration he ran through a status check of his command – but all were ready. His team had touched down not 10 minutes ago and deployed in advance of the PanO strike team. With the experience of countless battles Sun Tze had deployed his team in the most logical arrangement to receive an armoured highly mobile force. If you know your enemy and know your self – you need not fear the result of a thousand battles

“Contact. Squalos in bound”. The PanO wasted no time. The Squalos TAG was a formidable weapon – but Sun Tze was prepared. “Weapons free, Pheasant Xan”. The quiet of the dusk was torn apart as the Heavy Machine Gun of the Squalos traced towards the Imperial Agent Snipers position. A single shot range out amongst the roar of heavy fire but a fraction to late. The HMG round tearing through the stock of the snipers weapon and into his chest throwing him back and throwing his aim wide. Any plan only lasts until first contact with the enemy. The sky suddenly lit up as if lightning had flashed – but the Sun Tze realised it was a burst from a Flash Pack. He has forgotten the state approved WarCor that had been assigned to his unit. The powerful burst of light overloaded the sensors on the TAG. It flailed around launching grenades blindly in an effort to strike back.

With his concentration fixed on the response to the Squalos, Sun Tze almost missed the movement on his HUD. A tracking indicator appeared highlighting his target FATHER KNIGHT. Almost without thought his rifle rose from its rest position and barked a shot. The Father Knight stepped back as a spark sprang out from his chest accompanied by a satisfying spout of blood, but he kept coming. The cool band of light across his helmets visor fixed upon Sun Tze and then flew back as a second shot rang out. This time he stayed down. The battlefield paused for a moment as the Knight Fell. “Alpha Team – Deploy”. With a mental command Sun Tzes HUD shifted to show the point of view from the sensors on the armour of the Shang Ji Invincible as he moved into the space port complex. In front of him a strange shadow flickered – but Sun Tze knew this was the form of a Hac Tao – his shape and EM emissions masked by the Thermoptic camouflage net surrounding him. The Hac Tao were the elite heavy infantry who answer only to the Imperial Emperor. On many occasions Sun Tze command authority had been overridden completely by the presence of the Hac Tao whose command codes automatically took over the command network. This Hac Tao seemed content in Sun Tzes command, for the moment. The cold mechanical voice of the Hac Tao echoed across the COM NET “MOVING TO CONTACT”

Sun Tze scanned through the options he now had – then issued a command through his neural net. In a strangely synchronised motion three identical Lu Daun REM’s sprang to life. The trio of forms moved into the alley towards the TAG – but with a dealy purpose the Squalos swung around his HMG – his optical sensors recovered from the flash pulse. A deadly burst tore through one of the Lu Duan’s but there was no spark of metal on metal – just a shimmering mirages of a holo-echo. Two of the Lu Duan’s flickered and vanished as the third Lu Duan opened up. The deadly MK12 was a cut down HMG for close quarters combat, but is till had the punch of the HMG but the rounds struck the Squalos with little effect. Most impacted on the heavily armoured plated but one round struck a group of servo motors which now spurted black fluid. Sun Tzen realised his mistake. The Lu Duan now stood in the open. Then a plume of smoke erupted around the Lu Dian – momentarily confused Sun Tze searched for the source of the smoke. On a near by roof top the distinctive figure of a Shaolin Monk stood up – momentarily silhouetted by the flash of the WarCor’s HoloCam.

A cold mechanised voice spoke out across the COM NET “10 SECONDS TO CONTACT. TARGET AQUIRED. DEPLOYING CONTROL VIRUS”. Suddenly the TAG reared up from its position behind the shipping container. Sun Tze began to react to deploy troops in response to the TAG but then it spun around in a clumsy manner. A single PanO trooper, probably a machinist held his arms up in a futile gesture as the TAG’s giant fist hammered down driving him to the ground. Then the HUD changed and the TAG’s icon flicked from RED to GREEN. “TARGET HAS BEEN SUBVERTED”. The TAG lumbered forward in an almost drunk manner. Its HMG opened up – not towards the Yu Jing but back into the ranks of the PanO strike team – who had no choice but to return fire. The sound of metal on metal and the flash of sparks filled the air until finally the Squalos pitched forward crashing to the ground. “SQUALOS NEUTRALISED”.

As the Squalos fell and the smoke cleared, a sleek feminine form in shining military armour sprinted out – her Spitfire still smoking from firing on her own Squalos. The Friend or Foe indicator flashed RED on Sun Tze’s HUD –JOAN OF ARC–. With perfect grace she crossed the open ground and reached the corner of the alley way. The short barrelled spitfire screamed as high velocity rounds filled the alleyway tearing apart the Lu Daun. Sun Tze needed a solution – he needed a strategy before Joan of Arc living up to her reputation and led her troops to victory.

Under the cover of the Shaolin’s smoke Chao-Xing ran across the battle field. Her Med Net HUD registered the diminishing life signs of the Imperial Agent. As the Squalos fell she reached the prone form of the agent – who was being filmed by the WarCor. “Get that camera out of my face! I’ve got a job to do here. Take this and apply pressure here!”. The WarCor recoiled in shock as Chao-Xing trust the trauma pack into his hand. Her HUD flashed in warning – it was too late. A final line of text appeared in her log –CUBE BACKUP COMPLETE–. Suddenly a roar and flash of orange flame filled her peripheral vision.

Sun Tze HUD suddenly flashed violently red. A cold feminine voice spoke out a warning –ARIAL DEPLOYMENT DETECTED – DEPLOYING COUNTERMEASURES–. Almost immediately there was a flare of orange light as the retro rockets on an Airborne deployed drop troop ignited at the last moment to arrest terminal re-entry and allow the drop trooper to land. The Zanshi Hacker had failed to act quickly enough to interfere with the guidance systems of the drop troop who had executed a textbook landing behind the Chao-Xing. She spun around firing her rifle and rapidly back peddled, falling over the prone form of the Imperial Agent. At the same time that the Akalis opened up – his shots going wide over her head. The Akalis tracked his weapon down towards her prone form. A whirl and flash of orange robes and the oddly misplaced sound of wood on metal filled her ears as the Shaolin Monk knock his weapon aside and with lightning speed connected his wooden staff with the side of the Akilis head. He dropped like a stone. The Monk threw her a single look then vaulted off the side of the building running silently up the battlefield. He disappeared into a plume of smoke that appeared in the alley.

Sun Tze switched to the orbital camera far above the battlefield. The actions of the Shaolin had taken him by surprise. The Monk had none of the high tech sensors that the other troopers wore. He had no CUBE to back up his consciousness if he fell in battle. He was trained to think and fight by himself. The Monk emerged from the smoke and ran headlong through the fire of a PanO Fusillier. His staff spun so rapidly it appeared as a flickering circle and only stopped when Joan of Arcs sword blocked its path at the last possible moment. The force of the impact drove her to one knee but as Joan push out of the block, the Monk fell backwards. One of the Fusillers rounds had tore into him and he crumpled to the hard permicrete floor.

Joan of Arc continued the forward motion, stepping over the Monks body and rushed towards the central complex. Gun fire rang out as the Hac Tao fired on the Father Knight. Sun Tze curse for not keeping track of the enemy. A paramedic has reached and revived the Knight who now rejoined the battle, but after a short exchange of fire the Knight fell back toppling from the balcony. A sniper opened up and the Hac Tao spun his multi rifle around – loosing a shory precise burst. “TARGETS ELIMITNATE. YOUR LACK OF ATTENTION HAS BEEN LOGGED”. Sun Tze knew the Hac Tao would not forget his lapse – he calmed his mind taking in the battle field and letting the data from the COM NET flow over his consciousness. “Incoming. Left. 10m”. The Hac Tao spun drawing his huge blade on instinct just in time to block a deadly strike from Joan of Arc aimed at his head. He allowed his blade to slide down the length of hers and then across her arm but the blade just skittered across her armour…

The smoke cleared and Chao-Xing saw the unmoving form of the Shaolin Monk. She saw the beautiful and deadly form of Joan of Arc step over his body and run towards the complex. Later, when she recalled the events, she didn’t know if it was instinct or just a will to save the Monk who had saved her life. She ran to the edge of the building clambering down to the ground and the ran at full speed towards the Monks prone form. A warning flared and her HUD identified the form of a PanO fusilier on a cargo container ready to fire on her if she moved any further. She slammed her back into a wall cursing loudly. She could see the form of the Monk – she only had one option. Drawing her special medkit pistol she aimed and fired hitting the Monk in his centre mass. Chao held her breath, knowing that as the chemical compounds flooding the Monks body they were just as likely to stop his heart dead rather than revive him. Maybe a weaker man would have died – but this was a Shaolin Monk – a warrior Monk. He began to move, rising swiftly to his feet. The PanO Fusilier tracked his weapon to this unexpected target but the Monk was no longer there only a cloud of smoke. The Monk dove towards the battle between Joan of Arc and the Hac Tao. Bursts of gunfire cut across the battle field and once again the form of the Father Knight rose from the ground – and PanO paramedic following him. Then sudden appearance of the Monk took Joan by surprise as his staff smashed into her arm and chest knocking her back. She backed-up taking a defensive stance only to see the Monk stumble his body shredded by shotgun shells and rifle rounds. As he fell he tried to hold himself up by his staff and managed to hold Joan’s gaze long enough to convey an unspoken message. You shall not have this victory… A flare of light announced the arrival of the orbital cargo transport at the space port.

Sun Tze watched as the PanO forces backed away – and while there was an instinct to pursue a defeated enemy – he knew that Victory had already been achieved. “All teams, hold and secure.”

Chao-Xing fought back her tears. She tore the HUD from her head throwing it to the ground – but she could still see the blinking red light flash out showing the termination of life signs. What was the point? A sudden noise startled her and on instinct she spun around bringing her rifle to bear on a man in service overalls. She narrowed her eyes – all the ports personnel had fled and yet this man remained. The data pad in his hands confirmed her suspicions. “Sun Tze – I’ve detained a PanO High Value target. I’m bringing him in.”. As she stared into his eyes she hoped that she could be a part of his interrogation….

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